Korean Law Demystified!

Types of Wills under Korean Law


The Korean Civil Act (민법) outlines 5 types of wills:

I. Will by Holograph Document

Entire document must be handwritten by the testator him/herself.

– Must contain the year/month/date. All three!

– Must contain testator’s name/address.

– Must contain testator’s seal or thumbprint. On (any) corrections too!

– The advantage: No witnesses necessary!

II. Will by Voice Recording

– Testator must state his/her name + the year/month/date.

– Witness must identify him/herself and corroborate the will.

– Interestingly, the law is silent on how many witnesses are needed.

III. Will by Notarial Document

– 2 witnesses and a notary must be present.

– Testator dictates his/her will –> notary writes it down + recites.

– Testator and the 2 witnesses then verify via signature or name+seal.

– The advantage: No probate process necessary!

IV. Will by Secret Document

– The document must be tightly sealed (using a seal).

– It must then be presented to at least 2 witnesses (both/all present).

– The outside of the doc must reveal it’s a will + the year/month/date.

– Also, each of the testator and witnesses’ signatures or names+seals.

– Get a confirmation date from a notary or court clerk within 5 days!

V. Will by Instrument of Dictation

– Only possible when testator is unable to use the 4 preceding methods.

– Testator dictates his/her will to at least 2 witnesses present.

– One of them writes it down and then recites.

– Testator and witnesses all verify via signature or name+seal.

– Must be submitted to a probate court within 7 days!

To learn more about wills, please read Articles 1060-1111 of the Civil Act.

DID YOU KNOW? Korean law does not allow you to just will away all your money/assets to people of your liking. This is because the law specifically guarantees all heirs a (bare) minimum share. This is called “유류분.” To learn more, please read Articles 1112-1118 of said Act.

Thanks for reading!

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